When you think of amber, you most likely envision a butterscotch or whiskey color of yellow or orange. While these are the most common colors for amber, there are actually lots of other possible hues, from red to white to even blue. These different colors occur as a result of the source of the gem. Amber is a natural petrified tree resin and can come in many different shades depending on factors such as the type of tree it came from and the kind and amount of impurities suspended within.
As of right now, there are 7 main colors of amber and up to 300 different varieties that have been identified. The colors vary most commonly in shades of yellows and oranges. Some green, blue, and red colors have been identified, but they tend to be very rare. About 10% of amber is transparent, while the remaining 90% has an opacity to it. All of the colors of amber are commonly used when making jewelry, so keep an eye out when shopping for this gem! Let’s go into a little more detail about all the possible colors of amber:
The Main Factors of Amber Colors
There are two main factors that are known to influence amber's color:
The first of these factors is the inclusions that are found in the natural resin, most importantly the amount of bubbles. Why do bubbles affect the color of amber? They block the light that shines through the gem. These small disturbances in the lighting will cause the amber to appear as different colors and amount of transparency.
The second factor in the influence of amber's color is the tree source in which this natural resin is found. The research done on fossil resin indicates that some colors are found only from amber of certain trees.
A third factor comes from artificial interference. The color of the gem can be modified by dying or heating it. In fact, most of the green-colored amber you see on the market was heat-treated to form that appearance.
Colors of Amber
Now let’s go over the seven major colors of amber in more detail:
Yellow Amber - This color is most typical, and around 70% of the natural resin comes in this shade. It can have a brownish tint to it as well. This color is often found in the Baltic Sea region, and it’s valued by people due to the high quality of the gem. The exact shade of this yellow color depends in the number of gas bubbles found within. A higher number of bubbles will create a lighter shade of yellow amber.
Orange Amber – After yellow amber, the most common color you will find is orange. This includes transparent whiskey-colored gems as well as opaque orange gems. Since more bubbles means lighter color, orange amber contains fewer bubbles than its yellow counterparts.
White Amber – White amber is a beautiful color that accounts for about 2% of the gem that’s found in nature. The color is formed when the resin undergoes rapid evaporation in intense heat from the sun, forming a foam of millions of tiny bubbles. White amber can be very striking in appearance, since any inclusions will stand out from the pale color.
Red Amber - This shade is often referred to as “cherry amber.” It’s rarely found naturally, and in most cases is developed by exposing other colors of amber to very high temperatures. Some prefer the raw beads over polished ones, since they tend to look more natural. Archeological findings show that red amber rings were worn by the rich in ancient times, as they were found in historical grave sites. Since this was such a difficult color of amber to find in those days, only rich people could afford it. Today, however, it’s not too difficult to find relatively inexpensive, beautiful cherry amber.
Green Amber - This shade of gem only amounts to around 2% of all natural amber and is very popular. There’s a big supply of this color on the market and the price point of it may depend on how deep the shade of green is in the gem. The yellow-green shade tends to be less expensive while the deeper green is more expensive. The natural green color comes from chlorophyll from plant particles that got stuck within the resin when it set. These days, however, most green amber you find on the market was created by heating yellow amber. Historical findings indicate that the green amber gem was highly prized for its ability to bring good luck to those who wear it.
Blue Amber - A blue shade of amber is the rarest of finds, and it’s valued very highly. Only about 0.2% of amber comes in this blue shade. The blue color is often a small portion of a larger white chunk. Blue amber sometimes contains fluorescents inside, which allows it to turn into a very bright blue color when exposed to fluorescent lights! Often the blue color comes from pyrites (FeS2). This blue gem is mainly found in the Dominican Republic, but can also be found in the Baltic region. In ancient times, it was sometimes believed that blue amber would help control the spirits of air, fire, and water. This made blue amber preferable to certain religious figures.
Black Amber - This color of amber accounts for roughly 15% of all the gems that are found naturally, but many question whether or not this color should be included as a classification. A darker shade can be formed when the resin is not fully fossilized yet and is mixed with soil, debris, or other inclusions. If you hold black amber up to any light source, you’ll notice that it’s actually another color entirely, usually either brown or dark red. Another issue with this classification is that what some people have declared to be black amber is actually another gemstone entirely, jet.
Sub-Classifications of Amber
There are many other hues of amber to be found, from “Royal White” to “Yolk Yellow.” These sub-colors are often used to describe different combinations of color, transparency, and blends. There may be up to 300 different “colors of amber” when you count these sub-classifications!
Amber is a wonderful gem, and a great addition to any jewelry box. Each color comes with a story and a historical background for how people around the world have used it. Any piece of jewelry made from any shade of amber is beautiful and is sure to gain much attention when worn! In case you needed more proof, check out Aistre for Amber’s blog detailing the many reasons why amber makes the perfect gift here!